‘Kindness’ and what it means for children who have a parent with a mental illness

This week is Children’s Mental Health Week. The theme this year is ‘kindness’.

Kindness (noun): The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.

“Kindness can seem to be such a soft and woolly word, but it can have real meaning when applied to people experiencing prejudice, bigotry, and bullying. One person’s kindness can sometimes make the difference between hell and a sense of hope, and not being alone to face adversities.”

So what is kindness and how can we learn from the conversations about happiness this week? Our Time’s founder, Dr Alan Cooklin, has written a blog post on what kindness means for the children we work with who have a parent with a mental illness, and the impact it can have on that child’s life.

There are all kinds of prejudice; race, gender, disabilities for example, but an often hidden prejudice is felt by around 3.4 million children who have a parent with a mental illness. Many isolate themselves, assuming (sometimes correctly) that none of their friends or school mates will understand.

And for those school friends it is not an easy job to understand unless they have had an opportunity to learn what mental illness is like, what it’s like to be the child of a parent with the illness, and how much some understanding and kindness matters.

So why does kindness matter?

Because if your parent has a mental illness you may feel that you are drawn into their world or way of thinking, almost out of loyalty. It may seem so far away from what friends and schoolmates talk about that it can seem like another world. Then unkindness or bullying just confirms it and encourages you to stay alone and isolated.

If someone can understand in a kindly way, and break through your barrier of isolation it can make all the difference. From avoiding school, or at least avoiding all activities and people at school, to you being able to join in and feel part of a world that is not just centred around your parent’s illness. You can start to be a kid again.